An unconventional year: sophomore experiences

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Having missed half of their freshman year and events like Keepers Day, spring spirit week, and other essential traditions that Harrisites feel proud to be part of, current sophomores have never fully experienced the Townsend Harris culture. Since last spring, even more has changed, including an altered school schedule, virtual contests, and cancelled sports teams. Nevertheless, clubs and extracurricular activities are currently resuming, and many sophomores are attempting to make this year as normal and enjoyable as possible. The Classic spoke to several sophomores about their experiences thus far.

Several sophomores described the challenges of the rapid change in learning environments, including the lack of contact with friends and family.  Matthew Algenio said, “So much changed in a heartbeat; one second I was wrestling and the next quarantine trapped me in my house. It was isolating. The little human interaction I received was virtual lectures by teachers and the occasional text from friends.” Irene Skandalakis shared her disappointment of having her first year cut short. “Many were just beginning to find their place in the school and create meaningful relationships with friends,” she said. “But COVID came and friendships were tested before they had the chance to properly develop.”

The amount of time spent on the computer is another major source of disappointment for several sophomores. “I wish this year we [could] minimize our interactions online because staring at a screen for hours can be energy draining. Last year, we only really did zoom calls when they were necessary which I think gives us more time to learn and carry on with the other events in our day,” Abigail Agoan stated. Irene also agreed that the amount of screen time students have on a regular weekday is excessive. “Classes go by so fast, and I don’t have the opportunity to ask teachers questions and understand the material fully.” 

“I [also] wish our lunch period was the same as last year because our break period now is so short and I barely have time to eat,” Abigail added. Jaiden Del Rosario agreed that the lunch break is too short and added, “after 6 hours of being on the computer, we have to jump right back on it to complete hours of homework in addition to more zoom calls for clubs and volunteering… This cycle goes on for 5 days and even when the weekend comes we still find ourselves on our computers trying to balance homework and studying with our personal life.”  

However, despite the many challenges that have come with remote learning, several sophomores look forward to participating in clubs this year. Irene stated, “Since we are not doing any sports, I have the opportunity and time to be in clubs I didn’t do last year.” Since clubs are occurring virtually this year, many sophomores agree with Irene and are also branching out and trying to find new things they didn’t experience in freshman year. Matthew, who felt the same way as Irene, said, “I believe that the soul of Townsend lies in its extracurricular activities.” 

Tashfiq Souad described another benefit of the completely remote year to be the elimination of public transportation. “It had its pros because I didn’t have to physically [travel] to school. I’d have to spend 4 hours on the road every school day if it weren’t for remote learning,” he said. A few sophomores, whose commute to and from Townsend for at least two hours daily, agreed. 

Despite the differing views on remote learning, many agreed that they plan to make it a memorable year. “This year I plan to set proper schedules for myself to keep everything organized and be able to balance school with other parts of my daily routine,” Abigail said. Irene Skandalakis added, “I am going to focus more and become more dedicated to my work.” 

This year will definitely have its ups and downs, but the 2023 graduates remain optimistic, making the best out of their current situations. “Life felt a little bit unbalanced because I was never used to remote learning, but it eventually got easier to manage everything well,” Abigail concluded. 

Art by Veronica Kuzma